Taxes are due today, and hopefully you’ve dotted your i’s, crossed your t’s, and mailed everything in. But if you haven’t, then by the time you’re reading this it’s probably too late to meet the April 15 deadline. But that doesn’t mean you are out of options, because you can still minimize the penalties that you will have to face.
First off, if you are owed a refund then the April 15 deadline is more of a suggestion. You have three years to claim your tax refund (though many people never get around to doing so), but you won’t have to pay a fee. The government accepts your zero interest loan for as long as you want to give it to them, with the chance of converting it into an unintentional donation.
File your taxes, even if you can’t pay right now
But most of you probably do owe something. Even if you can’t pay right now, you still need to file your taxes ASAP.
“Do not not file. Come hell or high waters, file the return or an extension, don’t get hit with that penalty,” says enrolled agent Craig Smith, reports Kathryn Buschman Vasel for Fox Business News.
The late payment fee is 0.5% of the unpaid taxes, but late filing is 5% of what you owe every month up to a maximum of 25%. You can file for a six-month extension, but the deadline for that is also April 15 and you still have to pay your taxes. That might sound weird, but the penalties for filing and paying are separate and the extension is only for the paperwork. If you ask for an extension you’ll have to come up with your best estimate for what you owe. If you overpay you can simply get a refund after you complete your filing, but underpaying results in the previously mentioned fine.
Partial payments are better than nothing
If you know what you owe, but you don’t have the money right now you can ask the IRS to let you pay in installments. As long as the total amount that you owe isn’t too high the IRS will usually accept reasonable payment plans. But even just making a partial payment is better than doing nothing, since the IRS assesses penalties on taxes still outstanding not on the total for the year. If you can pay half your taxes now, your penalties will also be half as much.